I make a mean allergy-friendly breakfast quinoa. I’m talking dairy-free, egg-free, vegan, nut-free and gluten-free. I am no domestic goddess, but this is one area where I excel. Except when I leave Dan in charge. Without telling him he’s actually in charge.
* * *
I crept into our darkened house and was greeted by the smell of burnt dog biscuits. Everyone was sleeping, so I stepped gently as I brushed my teeth, washed my face, and took out my contacts. When I walked into the bedroom, Dan was just a big lump under the white blanket, and I could tell he was asleep as he asked “How were the girls?”
The girls were good, as were the two generous glasses of wine I enjoyed with them. Apparently the two drinks were good enough to cause me to misjudge the route from the edge of the driveway to the garage door, causing me to slam the front of my bike into the back of our minivan. This was more painful to my ego than to my body, although the impact did bother my wrists.
I didn’t tell him all this, though. Instead I responded, “Good.”
I was going to stop there. He was talking in his sleep, after all. But I couldn’t help myself.
“Do you know why it smells like smoldering dog treats in here?” I tried to keep any malice out of my voice, the natural consequence being that the needle moved entirely too far to the saccharine side of the tone-meter. The thing was, this had to be his fault.
I rolled my eyes in the dark.
“It smells disgusting.” Now I was whisper-yelling. “You don’t smell that?”
“I don’t smell anything, babe.” He rolled over. I decided to stop arguing with my sleeping husband and got into bed.
I woke several times that night… The house fan was making me too cold. The fan shut off and it was making me too warm. I had to pee. I thought I heard the baby. And every single time I awoke, I smelled the acrid scent of smoldering Milk Bones.
Thursday I awoke well before 6am with the vibrating beep of my alarm. I trudged into the bathroom, back to the bedroom to dress to meet my friend for an early run, then into the kitchen. There, I faced the source of my misery, hiding in plain sight.
The crock pot.
Or, perhaps more accurately, the breakfast quinoa that was left to blacken all night due to a miscommunication between me and Dan. Because here’s the conversation I thought I’d had with Dan:
Pam: Can you check on the quinoa after you put the girls down and shut the crock pot off whenever it’s done?
Dan: Of course, sweetheart.
Here’s the conversation Dan thought we had:
Pam: I’m going out with my friends. I invited you on our shared Google Cal, which means you’re not invited to come. Rather, you’re invited to please stay home with the kids.
Dan: Ok, I will do all the dinner dishes and put the kids to bed. Because it is important to me that you practice self-care, which means drinking with your friends, I will endure our four year-old’s endless shenanigans (the inevitable result of today’s three hour nap) plus any drama the two year-old wants to add to the heap of parental suffering. Also, even though I saw the quinoa in the crockpot, mentioned that it smelled good, and thanked you for doing a big batch of it, for the rest of the night I will behave as if said crock pot does not even exist, which I am assuming is cool because you never instructed me otherwise.
This is what actually happened:
Dan: That smells good.
Pam: It’s breakfast quinoa. I am making a ton.
Dan: Thanks for doing that, babe.
Pam: No problem.
Pam: [assumes Dan will check status of quinoa later this evening and if it is not done, he will check it every 20 minutes henceforth and turn crock pot off when it is sufficiently soft].
Dan: [assumes his responsibility for the quinoa is non-existent and excels at his non-task with extreme aptitude, as evidenced by his failure to note terrible burning smell that eventually fills house].
The moral of this story is never assume your husband knows anything about what’s in the crock pot. Communication is something I suspect I will be working indefinitely. Thankfully, there are certain things I’ve got totally under control. Like cooking for someone who cannot eat staple foods like oatmeal, scrambled eggs, or ice cream. Which is why I was making the quinoa in the first place.
Lady Bug is allergic to:
She is sensitive to (eg her eczema flares up) and therefore can only eat limited amounts of:
When I was breastfeeding, Lady Bug and I often shared a breakfast of kale and ground pork sausage, with some fruit for her and none for me because I was trying to lose the baby weight.* This option is filling and nutritious but it is a pain to prepare. Without the options of oatmeal, toast (gluten-free toast has eggs in it, and is therefore not an option), cereal, eggs, or waffles, my daughter and I were eating like our next stop was CrossFit, not the neighborhood park.
Until I discovered breakfast quinoa.
It is the best, and I’m not saying “It’s the best, compared to the crappy alternatives, given our limited diet.” I’m saying it’s really good, food restrictions notwithstanding. My method is based on other recipes I’ve seen online, but it’s always changing, depending what I have around. The only thing you really need to do is make sure you have at least twice as much water as grains, by volume, and the rest you can improvise.
I typically prepare a huge amount in my crock pot for my family to eat all week. If you over-make, you can freeze the extra. It doesn’t taste perfect when you defrost it but it is totally adequate is improved by adding some coconut oil after you microwave your serving. I don’t typically measure anything but the grains and the liquid, but here’s the basic recipe:
2 cups quinoa **
½ cup millet **
1/2 cup buckwheat **
1 15 oz can coconut milk (full fat or light, doesn’t matter. Ok to sub water, regular milk if you want)
1 15 oz can pumpkin puree (or applesauce, or more of any of the other wet ingredients)
1 cup almond milk (or soy milk, regular milk, or water)
1 cup water
maple syrup, agave, or honey to taste
2-3 Tbsp vanilla
A few pinches salt
Cinnamon, nutmeg to taste
options for additions:
raisins and/or any other dried fruit you like (apricots, figs, dates, etc)
diced apples (don’t bother peeling skins off)
1-2 overripe bananas. Use a fork to mush them up first. Alternatively, you could puree them in the blender with your other wet ingredients but I have found it doesn’t make much difference whether you do this or not.
1-2 cups shredded zucchini or carrots (or if you think of another veggie that would work, tell me!)
a few tablespoons of coconut oil (I just glob mine onto a butterknife and drop it in, hence the inexactitude).
shredded coconut (sweetened or unsweet, whatever you like).
Dump all of that in your crock pot and turn it to high. (I’ve seen other recipes tell you to coat the the crock pot with coconut oil but I have done it with and without this extra step, and it’s inconsequential.) Check doneness after 3 hours. It’s done when the quinoa is soft and most of the liquid is absorbed. If it’s not done, check every 15-20 minutes or so.
If you leave the house before it is done, be sure to avoid mental telepathy and assumptions as a means of communicating instructions to your partner.
*I think the low-carb breakfast trick helped a lot, as far as losing the baby weight, as did avoiding night snacking, but I attribute the eventual loss of the baby weight largely to factors not totally in my control, such as weaning and sleeping like a normal person again. I returned to my normal pre-pregnancy weight about a week after I fully weaned her, at which point she was about 16 months old. She had begun sleeping through the night fairly consistently at 14 months old. Meanwhile, I had a totally different experience with Sweet Pea. I was down below my pre-pregnancy weight by the time she was eight months old. Although she was always a better sleeper than her little sis, she was not consistently sleeping through the night until I weaned her at 17 months old. I know that some people insist you won’t lose the weight till you stop breastfeeding, while others maintain breastfeeding burns an insane amount of calories and will therefore be a fabulous weight loss tool. Oddly, I had both experiences. I felt the need to add in this bit because I was hungry for information on post-partum weight loss and was googling the shit out of it when I was trying to lose the baby weight. I’m not saying the pursuit of my pre-baby body was a worthy one or one that I am proud of but neither am I going to apologize for it or pretend I was carefree about it.
**Please note the proportions of the quinoa, millet, and buckwheat can be varied to suit whatever you like/have on hand. You can also substitute any other grain that is prepared using a 1:2 ratio of grain to liquid. You can absolutely do just quinoa or just buckwheat groats if you want. I wouldn’t recommend doing millet as your only grain, however, because of the texture.